5Takeaways from Les Miserables

I know I’m really late to the party, or revolution but I finally got a chance to watch Les Misérables on Blu-Ray DVD last night. I have never seen the show, listened to the music or the book. I really came to the movie with no pre-conceived notions besides knowing Anne Hathaway won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as Fantine and there is some guy name Jean Valjean involved.

I completely understand why this is a timeless classic

There have been so many reincarnations of this book/play that I often wondered how it is so timeless. In each generation, Les Misérables is either completely reinvented or redone as a movie or play. The themes are able to transcend time. This became evident especially at the beginning when Anne Hathaway performs the signature classic “I Dreamed a Dream.” Fantine may be talking about her struggles as a prostitute, and sending money to her child but the lyrics could be applicable to anyone, who hasn’t gotten what they thought they would receive out of life.

The excerpt, “I dreamed a dream in time gone by/When hope was high/And life worth living/I dreamed that love would never die/I dreamed that God would be forgiving,” could be sung by a recent college student stuck in a rut in their first job, or a perhaps a recently married couple not getting what they wanted out of their relationship.”

Duality plays a major role

When you look at the characters in Les Misérables, it almost seems like everyone is mirror image of each other. You have the character Jean Valjean who after being paroled in prison starts a new life as someone deeply religious, changes his name and works to better poorer peoples’ lives. In fact, he ends up “adopting” Cosette, Fantine’s daughter. On the other end of Valjean is Javert a police officer, played by Russell Crowe. As opposed to Valjean, he holds the law above everything else, even religion, and does not give anyone second chance. Throughout the entire movie, Javert is trying to capture Valjean once again. The law in the end does not give Javert solace however and he ends up jumping off a dam to his death.

And then you have the story of Cossette and Marius. The “adopted” daughter of Valjean Cossette, who once came from extreme poverty, is now looked on as part of the wealthier class in Paris. On the other end of the spectrum you have Marius, who although comes from a prominent family in Paris, is part of the group of revolutionaries who will try and take over the monarchy. Both are putting on “acts,” trying to be people who they really aren’t. But again, how is this different than any of us nowadays. We all wear clothing, listening to music, watch music or drive cars to perpetuate a certain image of ourselves.

I don’t think Anne Hathaway should have won an Academy Award

Even though Anne Hathaway does have a really powerful scene in the film (especially her “I Dreamed a Dream” a solo, I don’t think she should have won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. First of all, she is barely in the movie. I think her screen time is about 35 minutes.

According to an article written in The Daily Mail, Hathaway says she dropped 25 lbs. for her performance. She lost 15 lbs., before filming began and then another 10 lbs. during the actual production which is impressive. But the award isn’t for “Best Transformation into a Role.”

If it was up to me, I think Sally Field for Lincoln or Helen Hunt for The Sessions should have won the award. Both are in their respective movies longer than Hathaway and both shape the themes and plot of their films more. Sure, “I Dreamed a Dream” is a timeless song, but the character in the film gets what they want in the end. Marius may not get the revolution he is looking for, but this because second billing once he sees Cosette. And Valjean, even though he thinks Javert is after him until his deathbed, follows through on his promise to Fantine and raises Cosette like his own and gives her a great life.

The music is really awesome

It is a bit difficult to first get yourself in this film. It is kind of jarring to have every piece of dialogue sung, but there are so many great songs. I had never the film or musical before, but I can’t tell you how many times songs began and I exclaimed “I think I’ve heard this song before!” Songs like “Master of the House,” “Castle on the Clouds,” “One Day More” and “Do You Here the People Sing?” are all classics that have been either covered or parodied in some way.

There are some great supporting performances besides Anne Hathaway

A few screen stealers of the film have to be Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. Playing the rotten innkeepers, I kept waiting until they again appeared on screen with their wicked mannerisms and comical one-liners. “Master of the House” is wonderfully performed and it is great seeing them at the end stealing items from the guests at Marius’ and Cosette’s wedding.

Another really good performance is from Samantha Barks. A British actress who has appeared in many of the London stage adaptation’s Barks has an incredible voice and is truly beautiful. Playing the daughter of Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter, Barks’ character has the most interesting transformation. She goes from being the former love interest of Marius to the sole woman revolutionary (albeit trying to look like a man.

Overall I give the movie a B grade.

Even though I enjoyed the film’s music and performances immensely, I found the movie to drag and be really slow at times. And the films running time of 2 hours and 30 minutes does not help. I don’t really what could be cut since I’ve never seen any other adaptation of the film, but I really was bored at times.

 

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